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Monday, September 11, 2006

Sniff, cough, sneeze 

I woke up on the second day of classes with a burning feeling in my throat, a stuffy nose, and a general feeling that my respiratory feeling was about to go into revolt. A great way to start the year! Fortunately, most of my classes haven't got up to full speed yet, so I could spend some of the weekend feeling sorry for myself without falling hopelessly behind.

Speaking of classes, my selections for this semester are set. They are:

Strategy and competitive Advantage - this is one of the legendary Wharton courses with a professor who's renowned for being good but tough, and a 70 page final project. I'm really looking forward to it, but it's probably the course that scares me most this time out.

Managing Change in Organizations - this one's pretty self explanatory and looks like it's going to be really good.

Building Human Resources for entrepreneurial Ventures - a new course this year, that promises to be very interesting. It's a half unit and I'm taking it next quarter, so I'll have to wait a few weeks to find out.

Operations Strategy and Process Management - lots of lean manufacturing/service with some site visits and workshops.

Operations Performance Analysis - another new, half-unit course, taught by one of the faculty and someone form McKinsey. I'm really looking forward to it, but not sure how I'll cope with one 3-hour session a week instead of two 1.5 hour ones.

Marketing Research - this is my 'extra', non-major course this semester. I figure its a useful thing to know about and uses some of the stats stuff that I enjoy. Two different professors teach it this semester. I opted for the version without a big project (because all my other classes have big projects) and seem to have got the more interesting teacher into the bargain.

Unlike first year, the courses are very project-heavy and exam-light (I just have one take-home final). I've only had to buy one text book - although I've spent about $500 on bulkpacks - got to love those HBS cases and their royalties!

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Sunday, September 03, 2006

It's all beginning again 

After my last post moaning about my inability to get things done, I ended up having an increadibly busy but thankfully also very productive week. I then managed to end it by breaking the power cord for my lap top (well actually, it had pretty much broken itself, I just finished the job while trying to fix it), which meant a week away laptopless.

I got back from Maui a couple of hours ago, and despite having checked e-mail intermitently during the week, I'm still overwhelmed by the amount of things that I need to catch up with and take care of. The next couple of days are going to be super busy - thank goodness there are only two days' of classes before we get a weekend!

Right now though my priority is getting something to eat and then having a nice hot bath. The last time I was in water it was off a particularly stunning beach, and I'm feeling pretty salt encrusted.

I guess the vacation really is over.

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Sunday, August 20, 2006

All this leisure isn't good for me. 

I'm getting lazy. Not having much to do means that it's all too easy not to do much. I try to make myself get up at a reasonable time, but even if I manage that I still seem to end up pootling around doing not a lot, and before I know it I've been out of bed for two hours but still haven't made it to the shower. On the one hand, I should be enjoying this freedom, on the other, I do actually have some things I need to do, but it's proving hard to make myself get to them.

On the list of things to do is getting myself sorted for classes starting, which they do in seventen days. I'll only have two days between getting back from vacation and the start of school (and one of those is Labor Day) so there are things I'd like to take care of this week. It would be great if I could get the bulkpacks for my classes before I go away, but I suspect that they won't be ready yet, which'll mean that I'll be standing in line with everyone else on the 5th of September. My 10.30am class on the first day has a deliverable due (nothing major, but still a deliverable), so I'm hoping to get that taken care of. And there are little things like getting deadlines into Outlook (time consuming but necessary) and sorting out all the junk in my room so that I can actually use my desk for the purpose for which it was intended.

One of the most important things I need to do to get ready for classes is to finalise which classes I'm actually going to be taking. At Wharton, we select electives via an auction, using points to bid for the classes you want. For fall classes, the first three rounds take place at the end of the Spring semester, and the final rounds (another three for full-semester and quarter one classes, five for quarter two classes) happen in quick succession at the beginging of the Fall semester. When the auction started I was very clear about which classes I wanted. I bid on five of them and got four in the first round. I continued to bid on the fifth, in the hope that someone would sell it, but had another alternative lined up. As the summer's gone on I've changed my mind a bit though. One of the courses I'd won sounds really interesting but it, or rather the professor who teaches it, doesn't get good reviews. I'm always slightly wary of putting too much trust in what other people say. I know there've been courses and professors that I've liked and others haven't and vice versa. But I talked to people I know and whose judgement I trust who'd taken a class with the professor concerned, and they weren't impressed. Coupled with these doubts, I looked more closely at two half-unit courses that are new this year,and decided I was very interested in both of them. One of them clashes with the course I'd been dithering about, which has sealed its fate and I'm dropping it. The other one clashes with both my options for a fifth course, so I need to rethink what happens there as well.

So for next semsterI have three full unit courses set, and two half unit courses that I'm bidding on. I know that I'll get one of them (it has plenty of open capacity) and am fairly confident that I'll get the other. Now I'm just dithering about my fifth unit. I don't actually need to do a whole unit. If I just took a quarter unit communications elective (ifI could get a seat in one), with the classes I'll be taking in the spring I'll meet the graduation requirements. There are a couple of full-unit courses that have caught my eye though. Both look interesting and useful, both have points for and against them, both are outside areas I intend to major in. I really just need to get my act together and decide on one of them.

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Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Dry Air 

My flight home from Vancouver yesterday was my first expereince of the new travel restricitons. Restictions in Canada were tight: no liguids, gels, or similar allowed through security, and within the secure area any liguids sold had to be in open cups. At O'Hare, where we stopped en route to Philly, sale of liquids within the secure area seemed unaffected (bottles of water and soda available, drinks with lids on them) we just weren't allowed them on the plane, not that anyone seemed to be checking. when I fly, especially on longish trips, I'm normally equipped with moisturiser, hand cream, lip balm and a water spritzer as well as a large bottle of water because drink service never seems frequent enough. It'll be interesting to see how things devleop in the coming weeks.

Some news stories around this whole thing have been amusing, for a number of reasons. I almost snorted in disbelief at the news reporter who asked a 'security expert' how you could use a sports drink to make an explosive, seeming having missed the whole 'disguised as' element of the 'liquid explosives disguised as sports drinks' story. My morning paper yester day reported tha tthe ban on taking liquid aboard planes in Canada had been extneded to aerosols and juice. Am I missing something, or isn't juice a liquid? Then there's Philly aiport announcing that they will be providing booties as everyone now has to have their shoes x-rayed. I've had to take my shoes off everytime I've gone through security at Philly, so is this reuirement really a new thing? Anyway, I'll be grateful for the booties.

Ona somewhat less amusing note, today's Chronicle of Philanthropy e-mail highlighted this story form the New York Post on the impact of the hand luggage restriction on orchestras travelling between the US and UK. I used to work with someone whose daughter was a professional cellist, and had to remember to pack the cello spike in the hold rather than with the instrument. The cello had to travel in its own seat, and was apparently offered an in-flight meal on occassion.

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Vacation Update 

the past two and a half weeks have been a mixture of rest and work. I've just come back from 10 days in Seattle and Vancouver, neither of which I'd visited before and both of which were beautiful. (Not to mention warm but not hiot weather and low humidity, a nice change from Philly.) Before I went, I got a chance to meet the Wharton class of 2008 as a panelist at the International Student Orientation and then representing the Wharton Graduate Association(WGA) at a couple of events during the first day of pre-term. The heat that day was almost unbearable (I think the heat index was something like 115) but they were all gamely getting on with things and meetoing each other. They're now pretty much half way through pre-term and had the math test today - rather them than me. I've also been keeping busy with WGA things while I traveled, when technoloy would let me that is, rather than Outlook helpfully deciding that life would be so much better for me if it refused to send any e-mails. I'm one of the WGA's Executive Directors for Academic Affairs this year, which is a fun but busy job.

I've got another 12 days of semi-leisure in Philly, which I'm hoping to use, at least in part, to swee some of the city that I haven't made it to yet. Then it's off for a week of absolute vacation on Maui before heading back into the school year again.

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Friday, July 28, 2006

The wisdom of fortune cookies 

Last night I had a fortune cookie that seemed to be hedging its bets. It had two fortunes - "Idleness is the holiday of fools" and "Never trouble trouble till trouble troubles you". For now, I'm enjoying my fools holiday and trying to leave trouble well alone.

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Tuesday, July 25, 2006

And breathe 

Next Monday is Wharton's International Student Orientation for the class of 2008. I'm sitting on a student panel in the afternoon to answer questions, give advice etc. One piece of advice falls in to the 'well, duh' category: don't lose you're passport, it's a pain to get everything replaced. I speak from experience.

I'm not exactly sure what happened to it. I know I had it when I was doing my tax form at the beginning of April, but when I came to look for it in May it wasn't where I usually keep it. It wasn't anywhere else in the apartment either. All I can think is that it got mixed in with some papers and recycled.

Getting a new passport was relatively easy, getting a new visa a little bit more tricky. Legally, I was fine to be in the US without being able to produce a visa, but there are occasions when bodies want to see one to demonstrate legal immigration status, and of course I need one to leave and re-enter the country. Visas can't be issued in-country, so on Saturday I headed off for a hopefully quick to Toronto.

All the official messages stress that there is absolutely no guarantee that a visa will be issued, especially if you're a resident of a third country. My conscious mind said there was nothing to worry about - London had been happy to give me a visa last year, so why should this be any different? My unconscious mind seemed to be less sure - on Sunday night I had an anxiety dream where I was panicking because the semester had started and I was late for my first 9am class (not only am I never late for class, I don't even have any 9am classes next semester). When it came to trying to eat breakfast on Monday morning my stomach seemed to be with my unconscious mind.

As it turned out, the conscious mind was right. After a considerable amount of standing in line, the requisite finger printing, and an odd but light-hearted conversation with the visa officer about a) the pictures of birds in new UK passports b)Ben Franklin and c) his (the visa officer's, not Franklin's) meetings with Prince Charles, I was able to pick up my passport complete with new visa this afternoon. I took my stomach to tea to celebrate, and hope my unconscious mind will have a good night's rest tonight in the knowledge that it'll be back on its usual pillow in Philly tomorrow.

Seriously, don't lose your passport.

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Friday, July 21, 2006

Freedom! 

Today is the last day of my internship. It's been a mixed experience.

I came into it looking to get an insight into a slightly different type of organization, how it works and the issues it faces, rather than to learn a new skill, demonstrate a new ability, or make a big difference to my resume. In that sense it's been a success. It's also really helped me to clarify what's important to me in a job and in an organization. Unfortunately, the internship itself wasn't very well planned and a lot of the work I was doing wasn't really appropriate to an MBA internship. I definitely got something out of it, and hard financial measures of the appropriate stuff that I did do show that there were benefits to the organization, but I'm disappointed that there was a missed opportunity for it to be more beneficial on both sides.

So, I now have just under seven weeks of freedom until school starts again on September 6th. I think the last time that I had such a long period entirely to myself was in the summer of 1993.

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Friday, July 14, 2006

For all those planning on applying to Wharton . . . 

. . . the new essays are out. Looks to me like the changes are a flip of a compulsory essay to a 'choose from a selection' one, and vice versa, plus an extra choice in the selection section.

Good luck to everyone writing them.

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Friday, July 07, 2006

I love this stuff 

This is an example of something which would have come as a huge revelation to me a year ago, and now feels like a completely natural way of thinking. Just one of the reasons I love business school.

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